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  • Writer's pictureKristin Bailey Wilson

Milkweed Patches

I spent about 45 minutes taking pictures at two common milkweed patches on the farm. The first is at an edge between a wooded area and a forage field (picture above). The second is in the middle of the forage field. The field is planted with big and little bluestem, plus Indiangrass (picture below). The patches are near to each other.


Both patches were crazy busy with all sorts of insects and lots of each sort.


If you've never smelled common milkweed blooms, find some and inhale deeply. It's a sensual smell, like the old formula of Channel #5. There's some floral and some vanilla, and it has that oil smell of excellent perfume.


The red milkweed beetles caught my eye because (below), like the monarch butterfly, their only host plant is milkweed, and this little beetle prefers common milkweed. They eat the leaves, flowers, and stems. To eat the stems, they cut open a vein and let the milky substance leak out. Then they partake. They have four eyes that are divided by their antennae. It's an interesting and beautiful bug.

I also took a picture of a cocklebur weevil (below). The larvae bore inside the stems of cockleburs thus the name. They're not that specific though. The larvae will bore into anything in the sunflower family. I don't think this weevil was dining. But here it was on a milkweed leaf.

I also spied a bristle fly, Microphthalma disjuncta, no common name (below). It is not a pretty creature. While the red milkweed beetles and the weevil won't harm monarchs, this fly will. The fly lays it's eggs on the monarch caterpillar. When the eggs hatch, the larvae bores into the living hosts and eats until the hosts dies. It then leaves and creates a pupa.

Plus, there were butterflies. Here an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is feasting on the nectar (right). The farm is full of native Tulip Poplar trees, which are the host plant for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. These butterflies are a common site on my Macon county farm.


Here's the full list of insects that I was able to identify in the pictures from just 45 minutes: Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly, Red Milkweed Beetle, Transverse-banded Flower Fly, Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Silky Field Ant, Eastern Carpenter Bee, Margined Leatherwing Beetle, Western Honeybee, Hummingbird Moth, Microphthalma disjuncta fly, Ailanthus Webworm Moth, and Brown-belted Bumble Bee. And I'm sure I missed more species than I caught.



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